Knesset Marks “Struggle vs. Racism Day” Amidst Futile, Angry Debate

The Knesset marked “Struggle against Racism Day” on Tuesday, July 4, with a special plenary session in which motions were made for the parliamentary agenda. During the session, Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) said, “Israeli society is stricken with an epidemic characterized by being against anyone who is different, looks different, comes from a different origin or has different opinions. This plague is a poisonous influence on the lives of thousands of citizens; it is impossible to ignore this phenomenon.”

“I initiated the ‘Struggle against Racism Day’ because it is high time to confront this problem, this polluted wave which has inundated Israeli society. Since the beginning of the current Knesset, 94 bills dealing with the continuation of the occupation have been submitted; bills that are both anti-democratic and racist. Twenty of them have been passed as laws and another 10 are in the process of legislation,” said Touma-Sliman. “During the 19th Knesset, only eight such bills were approved. The current epidemic is a tsunami – if it continues to rage it will drown us all, not only the ‘other.’”

Hebrew Graffiti: "Death to Arabs"

Hebrew Graffiti: “Death to Arabs” (Photo: Coalition against Racism)

Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) said from the rostrum: “After almost 70 years, they suddenly remember to define what this state is! Did anyone doubt that Hebrew is the dominant language? What is this nonsense? The purpose of the Nation-State Law is to tell the Arab citizens: ‘you are second-class citizens’… As we have witnessed even today, the Knesset is a primary source of the problem. A large dose of racism is deliberately dripped down from above, from the Prime Minister to the public. Racism is a dangerous illness. It destroys those who have contracted it.”

Hadash MK Abdallah Abu Ma’aruf (Joint List), a physician by profession, elaborated the medical metaphor: “Racism is a metastatic cancer from which it is difficult to heal. The Knesset undertakes legislating ridiculously large numbers of racist laws, yet ironically it debates the struggle against racism. It should have been enough to discuss racism in the committees, where discussions would have been more practical.”

From the far-right end of the political spectrum, MK Oren Hazan (Likud) sought to provide a “sound bite” lesson in history, ostensibly in order to justify discrimination against non-Jewish citizens and institutional racism: “I have to make some order here. Starting from the Declaration of Independence, the authors spoke about a Jewish State. We didn’t just come up with this by ourselves. They did not address the ‘other’; they spoke about a Jewish State. You betray our values; you’ve forgotten what it is to be Jewish…. What other country provides equal rights like we provide the Arabs? You’ve forgotten the past, my friends, but I will remind you: the Land of Israel [historically] provided residence for the Jewish nation. Those who wish to reside with us, and not instead of us, are welcome,” said Hazan.